Forecasting Change: Warmer water equals stronger storms

Warm water fuels tropical storms and hurricanes

Hurricane Sam lasted 12 days in the Atlantic and had the highest ACE Index rating of the season of 53.8 ACE, about 5 times more than Hurricane Ida with slightly weaker winds but lasting only 4 days. (NOAA)

ORLANDO, Fla. – The tropics have come to life here in the month of September. As we often tell you, the actual peak of the season is Sep 10, so, we are just now halfway done with the action. This week on Forecasting Change we look at climate change driving stronger storms.

The most costly and deadly weather disasters in the U.S. are tropical storms and hurricanes. The trend of a warming climate creating warmer oceans is fueling stronger storms.

This graphic shows the stronger storms leading to higher cost.

Stronger Storms

The increase in tropical storm cost has soared since 1980. Keep in mind our development in storm-prone areas, and our increase in population, has also been wild in the same period. The storms are getting stronger, and there is more to be damaged than ever before.

Tropical Cyclone

Part of the effect of our warmer Earth and ocean is the tendency of the tropical storms to intensify rapidly.

Stronger Faster

Those numbers are impressive and eye-catching. But look at the numbers of storms that are intensifying by at least 50 knots (31 mph) in 24 hours.

According to our media partners at Climate Central, since 1980 about 80% of major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, go through rapid intensification. And of the 56 tropical storms and hurricanes that have caused at least $1 Billion in damage since 1980, 73% underwent rapid intensification.


About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.